PLANO, TX – Sept. 16, 2022 – Dallas Mavericks’ 2022 draft pick Jaden Hardy will host a free basketball camp for local youth in grades 3-8 on Sept. 24 organized by Plano-based Top Achievers Foundation. The camp is scheduled for 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and will be located at June Shelton School and Evaluation Center at 17301 Preston Road in Dallas. Members of the media are invited for on-site interviews and photo opportunities.
Hardy has made the ongoing commitment to mentor young athletes through his partnership with Top Achievers Foundation (TAF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1996 with a mission of inspiring, transforming and empowering students to live a lifestyle of high achievement. The organization helps Collin County students in grades 3-12 navigate their own unique path to a successful future through its mentorship, STEAM, esports, financial literacy and basketball programs.
TAF Executive Director and Founder Lawrence Mann has already been working for a couple years on introducing Hardy to the “Top Achievers Way,” as Mann called it. In the early months of the pandemic, Hardy joined other athletes and TAF students on a Zoom discussion to help keep kids engaged through the isolation of lockdown.
This July, Hardy also joined a group of TAF middle-school students at their basketball skills practice to share tips and stories not only about his chosen craft, but about the skills needed to succeed in life despite moments of adversity. He answered the kids’ questions about his journey to becoming a professional athlete, how to work hard and be consistent, and the respect he has for his father who pushed him to succeed.
Hardy’s involvement in the Sept. 24 basketball camp came about because he expressed to Top Achievers his desire to offer an experience for kids who may not be able to afford a sports camp elsewhere. The Dallas Mavericks player will go through drills with the attending students and host a Q&A session. The camp will also have a social-emotional learning component led by TAF’s mentorship director, and the goal is for every student to leave camp matched with a mentor who will guide them in the coming months.
Counselors, teachers, coaches and parents help identify students in Collin County that are most in need of Top Achievers’ no-cost mentoring program. TAF volunteer mentors work in a wide range of fields including sports, healthcare, nonprofit management, government, marketing, technology, the arts, education and more. Every mentor goes through a background check before receiving training and a toolkit of resources to help students.
Statistics show that some of the benefits of mentorship are increased graduation rates, healthier relationships, enhanced self-esteem and decreased likelihood of substance abuse.
“For the past two years through the pandemic, a lot of kids went to their phone or computer for education and entertainment. Kids in middle school and high school are heavily affected by social media at an important developmental phase of their lives,” said Malcolm Mann, mentorship program director for Top Achievers. “These students need person-to-person contact to thrive. We’ve seen positive changes in kids’ grades and relationships just from spending time, face to face, with someone who cares about them.”
Hardy is just one of several professional athletes who have signed up as a youth mentor for Top Achievers. Current mentors also include the Dallas Cowboys’ Osa Odighizuwa, Detroit Pistons’ Saben Lee, Seattle Seahawks’ Tyler Mabry and New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson.
Mann said the impact that mentors like Hardy and the Cowboys’ Odighizuwa have on these students reaches far beyond sports. “These guys tell stories of being raised by a Single-Mother, working hard and coming through and being on top of their craft. That’s something these kids can relate to. It shows that at the end of the day, whatever situation you’re in, it’s not permanent and you can come out of it.”